A/N: I planned to get this out earlier this week but I've been so busy. Working on the next chapter of Confession too and it's almost done. I find multi-chapter fics fun but a real challenge! :)
Thanks to vicpei1 and mystryGAB for their input!
"I don't do platitudes, just the truth."
"I didn't want to scare you off."
"You'd scare me off by lying to me," he said.
"Don't be. Listen, you need some rest."
"So do you," she said before she left the room. She returned with a pillow and soft blanket.
"You gonna tuck me in?" He asked, looking up at her with a childlike expression.
"Aren't you a little old for that?" She smiled but her eyes reflected her worries, about Rachel and about them.
"Come here," he said, patting the couch.
Cuddy hesitated at first but the way he looked at her, she couldn't resist. House still had his left leg up on the couch and when she sat down he pulled her to him so that she lay on the couch, her back settled against his chest. When she was in place, he pulled his right leg up around her and she felt safe and completely ensconced in his warmth. He pulled the blanket up and covered them with it, then wrapped his arms around her, feeling her settle comfortably into him.
"Shut up, Cuddy."
Two days had passed since House and Cuddy spent the night on his couch. She'd left early that next morning to take Rachel home and had called the hospital and told her assistant she was taking the next few days off to be with Rachel. House had asked her if she needed anything and she promised to call him if she did. House called her once or twice over the course of the next two days but his mind was preoccupied with his latest patient, which turned out to be rather bizarre case. He'd apologized to Cuddy for his lack of contact, but she told him she understood, and she did. Cuddy knew all too well how absorbed House became in his cases. Cuddy divided her time between taking care of Rachel, cleaning her house and working from home. Rachel's fever went up and down, she cried a lot and was very irritable. Cuddy realized it wasn't the flu however there were no signs of anything serious such as meningitis so on the evening of the second day, she decided if Rachel wasn't showing signs of marked improvement by the next morning, she'd take her to the pediatrician. Just after four o'clock in the morning on the third day, there was a loud knock at the door. At first she thought she was dreaming, but then she became alert enough to recognize the tell-tale signs of a cane pounding on her door. Cuddy stumbled out of bed, put on a robe and answered the door.
"Hey, here to check on the sick one," said House cheerfully when she opened the door.
"House, do you know what time it is?" She grumbled.
"I was in the neighborhood. Thought I'd go for an early morning run."
"That'd be great," she yawned. "Except for the fact you can't run."
"Geez, you're a bitch early in the morning."
"Come in, it's cold out there." She opened the door wider to let him in.
"I smell coffee."
"No you don't," she said pulling her robe tight.
"Could I?" He asked hopefully.
"Ass," she groaned as she padded into the kitchen. The outline of her gorgeous ass in that robe did not go unnoticed by House.
"Have you checked on her yet?" He yelled from the living room.
"Not yet given I was sleeping," she replied over her shoulder.
House turned and limped down the hall into Rachel's room. He stood next to her crib as he watched her sleeping soundly in just a diaper. He turned on the lamp near the crib, looked down and smiled. Yep, he thought, she's gonna be fine. At that moment, Cuddy walked in and stood beside him.
"If the fever isn't gone today-" she said.
"Shh..." he interrupted her by placing his fingers over her lips. "Look." House pointed at Rachel and Cuddy bent down to take a closer look. She breathed out a sigh of relief.
"Thank God," she said as she gently put her hand on Rachel's forehead. "Fever's down, now comes the rash."
"I had a feeling. I'm guessing you did too?"
"She didn't have any symptoms of the flu or meningitis and when I checked her ears and throat the other day there was no sign of ear infection or strep. Her lymph nodes were telling, then I went through the list of other things it could be and hoped like hell for a rash."
"Ask and you shall receive," he said. "She'll be fine in a week or so, two at the most. I wonder where she got it."
"I'll need to talk to Marina, last week she took her to a playdate with her nieces. She could have picked it up there," she replied. Then, out of the blue, Cuddy threw her arms around House.
"What? I didn't do anything."
"Actually, you did. Just being here with me." She started to cry. Rachel shifted in her sleep and to avoid waking her House led her out of the room, closing the door halfway before going back into the living room.
"There's no reason to cry, this kind of stuff happens to kids all the time."
"I know,"she said wiping her eyes. "It's just that...you were right...I can't be her mother and her doctor. I can't be objective."
House took a seat on the reclining chair and put his leg up and hung his cane on the arm of the chair. "I told you that you were a good mother. You did the best you could. So stop crying okay? She's gonna be fine."
Cuddy sniffled and chuckled. "Who are you and what have you done with House?" She leaned down and kissed his cheek, lingering there a minute. House closed his eyes and enjoyed the moment.
"How about some breakfast?" She asked.
"No, for the mailman, you idiot."
"Hmm...something you haven't told me?" He asked waggling his eyebrows.
"Stop it." She smacked him on the shoulder. "Since she's still sleeping, I'm gonna shower. You can do..." she waved her hands in the air, "whatever it is you do this early in the morning," then she walked away. A second later she spun around and said, "On second thought...don't." She winked at him and walked down the hall and House was sure that sashay of her hips was for his benefit. He grabbed the remote from the coffee table, turned on the Cartoon Network and made himself at home.
A few hours later, after breakfast, Cuddy bathed a very fussy Rachel while House was on the phone with his team discussing the necessary treatment for their patient. Once again, his epiphany hit him when he least expected, this time while he was helping Cuddy clear the table. Cuddy of course, thought the timing was quite convenient. He got off the phone just as she entered the living room with a freshly bathed and slightly less irritable child. They sat opposite House on the couch and Rachel stretched her arms out towards him, her fingers grasping at the air, trying to reach for him. Cuddy raised an eyebrow at House, curious at his reaction.
"God, you're as needy as your mother," he said to Rachel, staring at her. Rachel became more alert at he sound of his voice.
"I think she likes you," Cuddy mused.
"She doesn't even know me."
"She likes your voice."
It was true, every time he spoke Rachel would look right at him as if she were mesmerized. Rachel kept grasping at the air, obviously wanting House to hold her. He grumbled a bit but motioned for Cuddy to hand over the child, who was dressed in just a tiny pair of shorts and a light cotton shirt that read "Too cute for words." House shook his head reading the shirt. He held her upright on his good leg and the two stared at one another.
"So...you gonna spit up on me this time?" He asked.
Rachel just watched him curiously.
"You don't say much do you?"
This time Rachel reached one little hand out and placed it on House's mouth.
"Hey, watch that, I don't know where that thing's been." Rachel gigged and started patting the stubble on his face. House was not amused especially when he saw Cuddy laughing at him.
"I wish I had my phone, that'd make a great blackmail shot," she said.
"Woman, there will be no photos of any kind or you will find your panty drawer empty."
"You wouldn't dare."
"Oh, wouldn't I?" House raised his eyebrow to Cuddy letting her know he meant business.
As Rachel made herself at home on House's lap, Cuddy watched with a smile, enjoying the bonding moment between two of her favorite people. House was annoyed with her staring at him.
House thought he'd change the subject. "So...if I recall, the last real conversation we had...I asked you what you wanted."
"Have you thought about it?"
House looked dejected and Cuddy intervened before he got the wrong idea. "Wait, that's not what I meant. I don't need to think about it," she said softly.
House braced himself. He wanted her to say she wanted him. He needed to know she felt the same way about him that he felt about her. But he couldn't put himself out there unless she was willing to do it too.
"After you left med school, and I didn't see you for years, I couldn't stop thinking about you. Even when I dated other guys, I compared them to you. Do you remember when I told you that I hired you because you couldn't get hired at a blood bank?"
"Oh how could I forget? You have such a way with words," he said sarcastically. It bothered him that she hadn't answered the question. At that moment, Rachel started babbling as she reached for House's cane. He didn't mind until she put it in her mouth.
"Woah there munchkin, that's enough of that," he said taking the cane away from her. He placed the cane out of her reach and Cuddy picked Rachel up and took her over to her playpen where she had plenty of toys. She returned to the couch and took a seat again, this time closer to House.
"It wasn't true, at least not completely...the reason I hired you. I hired you in part because I knew you needed the job and I knew that when you immersed yourself into your work, you were positively amazing. I had hoped it would help you recover but..." She paused and took a deep breath and saw House was watching her intently, waiting for her to continue.
"I also hired you because...I had missed you all those years and...even if we couldn't be together, I just wanted to be near you." Her face flushed slightly and she looked down.
"Surely you had to regret that at some point, right? What about the times I drove you crazy? What about Vogler? Tritter? Defending me to the Board? All the times you had to put your job on the line to save my ass?"
She twisted her hands together. "I won't lie. There were times you made me so angry that I wished I'd never hired you but when the anger passed I was really glad I didn't fire you. I just kept thinking about what my life would be without you in it and in the end...I wanted you in it."
"My shrink would have a field day with you," he said joking.
"I'm sure." She rolled her eyes at him. "House, you do crazy things, you treat people like crap, and you break the rules and yeah while it annoys the hell out of me...and God knows you'll never let me hear the end of it...I admired you because you were never afraid. You had the balls to risk everything to do the right thing."
"I could've gotten you fired."
"I know it wasn't personal House. I know you'd never intentionally hurt me. I would not have put my job on the line defending you if you weren't worth it."
"So you admit you were just saving your hospital's best asset?"
She leaned forward and put her hand on his arm. "No, it's more than that and we both know it."
House didn't reply immediately, he just looked at her hand, still on his arm. "You underestimate the size of your balls, you know."
Cuddy looked at him puzzled.
"Atlantic was one of your finest moments. You were tough as nails, you stood your ground and you didn't take shit from anyone. What you did..took balls Cuddy. You've got 'em, I've seen them over the years. That hospital wouldn't be where it is if you didn't have the balls to stand up to those bullshit bureaucrats. You did that all on your own."
"Thanks, House. Coming from you that means a lot to me." Cuddy smiled at him. "I never told you this but during the Atlantic mess, it was you who gave me the strength I needed to stand my ground."
House stared at her, a look of surprise on his face. "Interesting. I would've thought the boy toy would have been your rock."
She sighed. "Hardly. I tried to talk to him about it and he was clueless. He couldn't even offer me any advice. He had no idea how important this deal was to the hospital and to me, no idea what was on the line. You did. You always do."
"Call it that brilliant insight you like to keep around."
"You have to know by now that I keep you around for reasons other than that."
"I've said and done a lot of things to hurt you over the years."
"I know. Pain makes people say and do things-"
"Cuddy, don't," he said, interrupting her. "Don't make excuses for me."
"But it's true."
House didn't answer her but his look told her what she needed to know.
"House," she said softly. "I've known you a long time. You've always pushed people away because you are afraid to get too close. You don't have to do that anymore. After all these years, we deserve this. Don't let your pain get in the way of something that could be really great."
House knew she was referring to both his physical and emotional pain. "You could be having a great life with a great guy who is everything you want and need. Are you sure want a relationship with me?"
"Crazy isn't it? I should want normal, I should want the fairy tale, but in the end, I'd rather have you."
"That's a compliment, right?"
"Duh," she said, rolling her eyes, smiling at him. "House, you're what I want and need."
That was all House needed to hear. He leaned forward and put his hands on either side of her face, hoping that he could convey to her with actions what was so hard for him to put into words. The kiss began soft, slow, and gentle but soon became passionate and needy as lips melded, tongues danced and hearts raced. In a way, their kiss was a reflection of them and the relationship they'd had over the years that led them to this moment. When they finally parted, they were out of breath. They opened their eyes and stared at one another, smiling. House loved Cuddy's smile and thought it was the most beautiful one he'd ever seen. When Cuddy looked into House's eyes, she saw something she hadn't seen in a very long time and that filled her with great joy. Despite the knowledge that things between them would be tough at times, both seemed to understand that this was where they belonged.
"So...where do we go from here?" He asked, pulling her to him, her head resting on his chest.
Cuddy pondered that thought for a moment and grinned at him.
"I was thinking that we should go out on a date."
Sitting in her playpen across the room, with her eyes focused on the two adults on the couch, Rachel suddenly broke into a fit of giggles and clapped her hands together in approval.
There you go folks, that's the end! I was going to write another chapter but then after this last line, I realized it worked perfectly with the title of the story, it answers that question, "Where do we go from here?" It was either that or "I think we should move in together" but alas...that would be a wee bit too soon now wouldn't it?
Thanks for all the fic love!